Making Measurement Simple: The Metric System
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After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.
1.1 Intent of unit
The purpose of this unit is to advance the cause of teaching the metric system. With the understanding of the the metric system will come the increased understanding science and technology since these fields already operate in the metric system. Most of us in teaching today did not grow up learning the metric system. For many of us our first contact has come with the introduction of metrics into our curriculums and textbooks. Thus, there is probably some resistance among those of us who teach just as there is among the general population. Hopefully, this discussion will overcome much of this resistance. I intend to discuss how and why metrics came about, briefly I will also give some reasons why and some guidelines to keep in mind as we go about teaching it. Lastly, there will be three specific lesson plans and also bibliographies for teachers and for students.
1.2 Who uses metrics
Science and technology involve, to a great extent, measuring. The scientific community world wide long ago realized the necessity for standardization of units of measure. It was largely for this reason that the metric system was developed. Today, every major nation in the world and the vast majority of all nations, have officially adopted the metric system. The United States is the only major exception. We continue to use the customary, or English, system which goes back to about the 1200’s.
1.3 What is “metrics”
The metric system is a group of units used to make any kind of measurement, such as length, temperature, or weight. No other system equals it in simplicity. The scientists who created it designed it to fit their needs. The system is logical and exact. But a non scientist needs to know only a few metric units to make everyday measurements.
1.4 Why switch
The metric system may seem difficult to those of us who have not grown up using it but that is mainly because of unfamiliarity with the units. The rest of the world has made the switch without any major problems and we can too. This is because metrics is simple. In fact, it is far more simple than our present system.
There are two reasons for the simplicity of the metric system. First, it follows the decimal number system—that is metric units increase or decrease in size by multiples of 10. For example, one centimeter has 10 parts called millimeters and 100 centimeters make one meter. Under the customary system there is no single relationship between the units. For example, feet and inches go by i2 but yards and feet go by 3. The second reason for simplicity is that there are only 7 basic units that make up all measurements. The customary system has more than 20 basic units just for its common measurements. Customary units used for special purposed add many more basic units to that system.